Griswold Invested as 25th Presiding Bishop of Episcopal Church January 10 in Washington

Episcopal News Service. January 15, 1998 [98-2062]

(ENS) In a sweeping liturgy that combined soaring choral music, the heady rhythms of Native American drums and African American spirituals, with the spectacle and color of stately processions, Frank Tracy Griswold of Chicago was invested as the 25th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church at Washington National Cathedral January 10.

After an extensive musical prelude, drawing on a wide variety of church traditions, almost 200 bishops of the church were joined by ecumenical guests and, for the first time, representatives of Islam and Judaism, in processions that flowed into the cathedral from all directions. Banners and colored streamers captured the festive air of the occasion, as the nearly 4,000 participants filled the cathedral to inaugurate a new season of leadership in the church.

Participants in the cathedral were joined by an estimated 7,000 church members at more than 200 downlink sites across the country who watched a live satellite television broadcast and participated locally in the service. A simultaneous audio feed over the worldwide Internet extended the audience internationally.

Welcoming the presiding bishop

When all had taken their places, a delegation moved to the west entrance to welcome the new presiding bishop. The moment of expectant silence was pierced by a loud knock at the portal. Bishop Ron Haines of Washington opened the doors and members of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Chicago introduced the new presiding bishop to the church "with pride, affection and gratitude for his ministry with us."

Former Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning and House of Deputies President Pamela Chinnis asked the presiding bishop to affirm his commitment to his new ministry. When Browning asked the congregation if they would "do all in your power to support and uphold Frank in this ministry," they thundered in response, "We will." Haines extended the hospitality of the diocese and Dean Nathan Baxter invited Griswold "as our chief pastor to preside in this Eucharistic Assembly."

Symbols of ministry

After presentations of the Jewish Torah and the Islamic Koran, the Episcopal Church's ecumenical partners stepped forward with gifts and symbols. Greek Orthodox Archbishop Spyridon presented an icon, Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson a copy of Confessions, the Rev. Joan Campbell of the National Council of Churches offered a copy of the Bible, Dr. Vivian Robinson of the Consultation on Christian Union brought a liturgy. Bishop Jack Snyder of St. Augustine, co-chair with Griswold of the Anglican-Roman Catholic dialogue in this country, brought a Book of Blessings from the Roman Ritual. And the Sunday school at Chicago's St. James Cathedral brought a construction that symbolized "our worldwide household of faith," and representatives of the Anglican Communion offered symbols of "the diversity of our worldwide communion and the challenges of our future together."

In one of the most poignant moments of the liturgy, Browning presented the primatial staff to Griswold, a symbol of the role of presiding bishop, asking that he "lead us in witness to the world that genuine authority and true joy come only through walking the way of the cross with Christ, our Savior and Lord."

When Browning presented his successor to the congregation, the cathedral erupted in sustained applause. After stepping into the congregation for a quick hug from his family, Griswold then moved to his chair behind the altar and led the congregation in prayer.

Homily emphasizes community

In his homily, Griswold related an experience he had at Assisi, at the foot of a crucifix that "spoke to St. Francis," in the church where Francis prayed at the beginning of his conversion.

As he sat in the dark chapel, Griswold said that he was" drawn to the cross as though it were a magnet" and soon moved "from observer to participant," reciting a prayer written by Francis at the foot of the cross. "In the silence of the chapel, the prayer spoke to me," Griswold said. He discovered that God's call to Francis was a clear one -- "go rebuild my church," a call that soon took hold of Griswold as well. With it came the realization that the task was not his alone, that God was saying that "it belongs to everyone who has been baptized into my death and resurrection. You are all called to rebuild my church."

The communion of spiritual fellowship "makes us permeable to truth: truth which is discovered in a living way through the sharing of the truth which is embodied in each of us, in what might be called the scripture of our own lives," Griswold said. "Each one of us is a bundle of agony and idiocy, of grace and truth caught up into Christ." That allows "your truth and my truth to address one another and give room to one another. In the process something happens between us which enlarges the truth each of us previously held. Such is the nature of that sacred enterprise we innocently call conversation which carries within it the possibility of conversion, of being turned in a new direction by the word, the truth, of the other."

It is "a capacity for ambiguity and paradox that is part of the glory and frustration of the Anglican way," giving it "the ability to discern and welcome truth in its various forms," Griswold said. Through what he called the "subtle yet exacting rhythms of our common prayer, the diverse and the disparate, the contradictory and the paradoxical, are woven together in the risen Christ." As a result, "different dimensions of truth, different experiences of grace, can meet together, embrace one another, and share the Bread of life. "

In closing, Griswold said that he was "immensely hopeful" about the future of the church, "because of the good will and generosity of spirit which meets me almost everywhere I go...because of the vitality and faithfulness of congregations large and small...because of the deep desire on all sides to move beyond threat and accusation to a place of conversation, conversion, communion and truth"

Renewal of the Baptismal Covenant

In what he called "the ground of today's liturgy," Griswold and a group of assisting bishops moved to a large baptismal font in the middle of the nave and led members of the congregation in a renewal of their Baptismal Covenant. After filling bowls of water from the font, the party moved throughout the cathedral sprinkling the entire congregation with the water.

Led by the new presiding bishop, the liturgy moved into the Eucharist, with communion stations scattered at key points throughout the cathedral. At the end of the communion, the dean and the bishop of Washington escorted the presiding bishop to the stall in the Great Choir reserved for his use.

After blessing the congregation at the conclusion of the service, Griswold moved slowly down the aisle, pausing at the baptismal font, where he was joined by his wife Phoebe and his family. Drawing on a common theme of his ministry -- accessibility and availability -- he greeted the hundreds who pressed forward with words of welcome and encouragement.

A reality check

Expressing his "need for a different view of Washington," on the day after his investiture the Griswolds journeyed to the other end of the District of Columbia for what he called "a reality check."

Far from the Gothic glories of the cathedral, Griswold and his party were greeted by the Rev. William Lewis, rector of the Chapel of St. Philip the Evangelist in Anacostia, for a walk through one of the poorest areas in the city prior to the Sunday morning service.

At Imani (faith in Swahili), the only sit-down restaurant in the area, they had coffee with the owner, Lamont Mitchell, who described his attempts to create a human space, a beacon of hope for those who needed a lift. "Nothing is more basic than gathering at the table," Griswold said in response.

The walls of the restaurant are covered with paintings and photos of prominent black leaders from politics, entertainment, and sports -- and a Grandmothers Wall of photographs. Next to a stark drawing of a slave is an actual slave collar.

Mitchell's contagious enthusiasm infused the group even more than the hot coffee, as he expressed his hopes for rebuilding the neighborhood. During the conversation, he reminded his guests that "these are the very streets that Frederick Douglass walked when he lived nearby." Douglass was a powerful voice for emancipation of blacks during the mid-19th century and served as U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia.

Visit provides new energy

During announcements at the service, Lewis offered a warm welcome to Griswold, expressing deep appreciation that he had chosen the parish for his first visit after investiture. "Your visit confirms your determination to be the bishop of all the people," he said. Griswold admitted that he woke that morning "feeling a little tired," but thanked the members for giving him "new energy." He said that his walk through the neighborhood had "taught him something of your rich life of service."

After the service, at which Griswold celebrated and preached, parish members and their special guests gathered for a reception during which they listened to an African dance and drum group based in the parish and exchanged gifts -- and affection.

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